NMR Responds: ‘The Jenna Marbles Paradox’ is F*cking Lousy

This piece is intended as a retort to Betabeat.com’s article: “The Jenna Marbles Paradox: Why Are YouTube Videos So Terrible?” by Ryan Holiday. No animals were harmed in the making of this response.

“Ryan Holiday — [Jeff raises his arms to indicate the vast coliseum that one needs to suspend disbelief in order to imagine is now surrounding them] Are you not entertained?”

You wrote such a long and pontificating screed, it’s hard to decide what to start with first. Let’s take your approach though, and go after low-hanging fruit. “The Jenna Marbles Paradox”? It’s as if you’re cashing in on her name appeal as much as she is. And I find it fascinating that we’re “living in a golden age of amazing TV” when I have to click through “Real Housewives,” “Kardashians” and other life-wasting, view-whoring television options. What’s that? Television is just as bad as YouTube except there are less options? Just because the world has a boner for “Game of Thrones” currently does not this the golden age of television make. Like I said though, low-hanging fruit.

I love your fascination with paid subscriptions and the idea that it will produce “quality content.” There is a lot of really fantastic product out there right now — check out the brilliance that is “Epic Rap Battles of History” or Vsauce or even the simple, silly fun of “Bad Lip Reading.” They’ve managed to rack up enormous view counts by providing consistently smart, funny and, dare I say, free content.

For you to go after Jenna Marbles because her videos are “simple” is akin to the sort of jealousy Michael Bay must feel whenever some little indie film does well at the box office: [effect a sort of nasally “whiner” voice for this part] “Well, that’s not fair! I charged someone hundreds of millions of dollars to make this movie … it should do hundreds of millions of times better than that movie!” See, the simple truth of life is that humanity is not perfect — we are not measured in star wipes or tight edits or perfect lighting. We are measured in public by the person that we appear to be, and in private by the person that we are (you can write that on a fortune cookie if you want). And the public’s perception of Jenna Marbles, Ray William Johnson, Smosh and all the other personalities that you take umbrage with, is that these folks are people that the public wants to get to know better. We like that Jenna seems like the “cool dirty-mouthed girl at the bar,” we like that Ray William Johnson would probably entertain the hell out of our kids at a BBQ, we like that Smosh … we like Smosh (sad that I feel compelled to explain to you that I am making a joke here and that if I felt a compunction to create a reason to tell you why Smosh is likeable, believe me, I could). See, what’s so grand about YouTube (and new media at large) is that it feels instant, unvarnished and raw. These kids aren’t making scripts for this stuff — this is pure unadulterated silliness shining through. And while that’s not for everyone, Holiday (cheap bully tactic of reducing you to your last name here), it clearly works for many, many people.

Jenna Marbles, Ray William Johnson and Smosh are some of the personalities that have floated to the top in this current free format. You, like every “Uncle Rico” (dated Napoleon Dynamite reference here) that came before you, love to live in that magical world of “if.” “If we had paid subscriptions, ‘interneting’ (it’s such a curmudgeon argument that I imagine you using words like “interneting” between your rants that LBJ was the only thing this country got right — how ad hominem of me, right?) would be better.” “If the Germans had won the war, the subways would never be late.” “If” is such a pointless conditional clause to live by, but, good for you, now that paid content is arriving, your arguments can now take on the
slightly more definitive “when.”

"Smosh doesn't like negativity either; though we really should use less violent methods to express our displeasure."

“Smosh doesn’t like negativity either; though we really should use less violent methods to express our displeasure.”

Here’s the thing though — since you have such a fondness for The Young Turks, and they are an early adopter of the paid subscription model, lets see what they offer: Ooh, some behind the scenes stuff, some bonus “fan stuff,” cool. And it is cool, but guess what it doesn’t give you? A different opinion from Cenk Uygur that he only shares with his “premium fans.” Nope, he’s an honest, likeable guy to the free crowd and the paying crowd — I was in the audience when he said as much (see? I go to stuff). “Paid content” might seem like some beautiful cure-all, but the reality is that kids pay for dubstep on iTunes — if they think something is good, they’ll do what it takes to get it — even (gasp) pay for things you find terrible (my apologies if you like dubstep).

I’m not sure what it is you’re looking for on YouTube that you think is good content (merlot reviews?); hell, I’m not sure you’re sure what you’re looking for, but the beauty of this newfangled, global TV-on-the-web, is that currently there is some wonderful, smart shows out there that would be perfect for even you, Ryan Holiday. And, trust me, when you find them, your heart will grow three sizes that day.

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